My son (super bright, busy with a million things, awesome in many ways) clearly just doesn't care a lot about school for the sake of school. He recognizes that he should have a degree in order to have the best chance of having the kind of future he wants, and he gets enthused and excited about the occasional class. With the exception of one semester, his grades have ranged from pretty good to excellent . . .
But he can't be bothered to lift a finger to handle any "administrative" stuff along the way. Without me "helping," he would miss (and has missed) deadlines and end up getting shut out just because he's too busy with other stuff to prioritize what he perceives as busywork. In general, once he gets set onto the path, he does fine/very well on his own, but he'd never get to the starting line without me kicking from behind.
I'm trying desperately to get out of this position. We've had multiple conversations about the fact that he is an adult and should be taking over more of this stuff, about the fact that I want him to own this process so that he can feel proud of his accomplishments, about how I need to back off for my own peace of mind. I've made it clear that I am prepared to play an occasional supporting role when directly and specifically (and politely) asked to do so, but that he must take the lead. I've tried waiting longer and longer and letting him fail occasionally, hoping to see a little fire lit underneath him. And sometimes I see flickers.
But then he ends up where he is now. After two years at one college, he decided to change direction. Of course, he made that decision almost at the end of the summer, when it was too late to transition directly to the school/program he decided he wanted to pursue, instead. So, he opted to return to the local community college for a year to take a few classes that would button up an A.A. and make it easier to transfer to the state university while also earning a certificate in a related field. It was supposed to give him breathing room but also keep him engaged and moving forward until he could apply for his chosen program at the state U.
The application for the program (which he already knew was very selective and accepts only a few students a year, even fewer of whom are transfers) opened in October. He was busy (true enough -- he was working nearly full time and carrying a full class load at the CC) and kept putting off getting it finished and submitted . . . until he just didn't do it at all.
We talked about a fallback plan, and he decided he would still transfer to the state U and do a less specialized major. He understood that he still needed to submit applications to the university and to the program and that the program application would require some supporting documents (recommendations, primarily, which he should have no problem getting).
Well, the program application deadline came and went. The auditions for the minor he wants to do came and went.
In the past, I've had some success with actually scheduling a time to sit down with him and formally meet to review stuff and come up with an action plan. So, when I realized that the deadline to submit the transfer application is coming up next month, I told him we needed to meet. He agreed, but kept putting off setting a time.
He's made it clear that he dislikes it when the bulk of our interactions are about academics, and I get that. So, I was carefully trying to allow time and space for some more casual, pleasant, familial stuff to go on before I got pushy. Finally, I took the opportunity one day when we were both in the kitchen packing lunches for the day to remind him that we really needed to set a date/time to talk. I also asked him to do both of us a favor and do some thinking before we met. I told him that I still feel strongly that he should finish a bachelor's, especially since he has already invested so much time and energy in the process, but that I never want him to feel resentful or that I somehow frog-marched him through to a degree he didn't want or value. I asked him to try to envision and articulate what he wants for his future and how education fits into that and to make sure he is making intentional choices.
He said he was ready to answer that right then, assured me that he feels nothing but appreciative of my help and support, that he absolutely wants to finish the B.A., etc.
Two days later, we finally sat down together. We looked over the degree audit from the CC and verified which CLEPs he needs to do this summer to nail down that A.A. (He has a ridiculous number of credit hours, but not in quite the right combination to check off the boxes.) We ordered the prep book for the one for which materials aren't available through our county library. He submitted the application to transfer to the state U. He understands he may need to start classes without a declared major and that he will need to meet with an advisor on campus as soon as possible to figure out how to get into a program.
After he clicked "submit" on the application, he got a message saying that, within 24 - 48 hours, he would receive an e-mail with his network ID and would be able to log into the university's portal and see what other documents might need to be submitted, etc. I emphasized that he really needed to stay on top of that part, because the deadline is coming up, and, if it turns out he needs transcripts or anything like that, they will need to be requested right away.
It's now a week later and, despite me asking about it a couple of times, he has yet to log onto the portal.
A big, big part of me wants to throw my hands up in the air and say, "Forget it, he's on his own." I'm exhausted trying to both keep him on track and stay cheerful and loving about it, and I don't want to sacrifice our relationship in pursuit of a piece of paper. And I know that a majority of folks here are likely to tell me that I've already done too much, that he's an adult and needs to learn, by failing if necessary, to act like one. In theory, I agree.
But it's not like this is a man-child who sits around all day playing video games. He's not in any way a slacker. If anything, his problem is the opposite; he's interested in and talented at so many things that he is busy all the time. He works, does well in his classes, puts a ton of effort into learning and practicing his skills on his own time and is well into year two of a stable and mostly healthy romantic relationship.
My husband and I both know from personal experience how easy it is to put off education until it becomes difficult/impossible to do. His parents would have financed at least the first two years of college for him and paid the expenses for him to continue living at home, but he didn't put in the effort to actually get to class. Only once he got into his 30s did the lack of a degree start to really pinch, and by that time we had two little kids and a ton of expenses and he was working full time while coping with chronic pain from an old injury. I have a bachelor's but walked away from an opportunity to get a master's degree nearly for free because I "couldn't focus on it" while I was working. Then I was home with the kids. Now that I'm back to work, the whole landscape has changed, and jobs that would have required only a bachelor's 30 years ago now really want a master's. So, both of us are facing treading water for another 15-20 years until retirement, limited by decisions (or non-decisions) we made decades ago.
And we share a determination not to set up our kids for the same pitfalls.
But still -- I don't want to shove our son through to a degree at the expense of encouraging him to grow up.
I seriously have no clue how to walk this tightrope.
What would you do? What have you done?
Edited by Jenny in Florida, 19 May 2017 - 04:12 PM.